Building enterprise systems at consumer scale is difficult, but making them easy to use at the same time, is an incredibly tough technical challenge.
But, tough doesn’t mean impossible. And since we all expect our corporate invoicing system to be as easy-to-use as a ride hailing app, it’s a challenge developers, software engineers and product designers must overcome, or risk their products becoming obsolete.
Michael Rosett, Principal Software Engineer at Celonis, is taking on the consumer/enterprise conundrum and has advice for other dev teams doing the same. With degrees from U.C. San Diego and Carnegie Mellon, Rosett has held engineering jobs with some of the biggest names in tech, such as IBM, Yahoo! and Google. In his current role at Celonis, he and the company’s Engineering and Product teams are building the next generation of enterprise software, called Execution Management.
I was lucky enough to chat with Rosett during a trip to the Celonis Los Angeles office, located in beautiful Silicon Beach. We talked about how the team is building enterprise apps at scale, and he shared his advice for developers who are facing equally tough technical challenges.
The following is an extended transcript of our interview edited for readability.
Detwiler: So what made you want to become a software engineer?
Rosett: Well, my freshman year in college, I was sitting around the dorm rooms and saw my roommate writing some code. And I got curious. And so I talked to them a little bit, what it was like, it felt like solving puzzles. And so my sophomore year, I went all in and found my second love.
Detwiler: What was the first line of code that you remember writing?
Rosett: I went to summer camp. It was a summer camp with computers and water slides. And I think the program I wrote was choose your own adventure, where there's a little story going on and you asked a couple questions to the person on the other end, which path do you want to take? And that was it.
Detwiler: So it was like building a decision tree right there from the beginning. Did it have anything to do with water slides? Or was it completely separate from that?
Rosett: Yeah, no. They had to get us outside, running around. So we could be in their focus as well, not just sitting in our seats. But yeah, it was a decision tree and I had no idea. Right?
Detwiler: So what do you really like about working at Celonis?
Rosett: Lots of great challenges. I love working on front ends. I think I love that you got to figure out what is it that your users are trying to accomplish. And the more variety in the industries that your users are in, they all have different mindsets. And so trying to build one solution that solves it for everybody is a lot of fun and hard. And so, it takes iteration and patience and working with users, working with your team, and finding the right solution.
Detwiler: And trying to do it at scale, I imagine, is also a challenge.
Rosett: Absolutely. Scale's, I think, one of the harder things, right? And then there's many different dimensions to scale. We're scaling up a team here. And we need to make sure that when our engineers come on board, they can hit the ground running and quickly learn what they need to know about the domain and the tools we're using and all those things. And so scale just has so many different aspects.
Detwiler: What's one of the toughest technical challenges that you're working on right now?
Rosett: Scale, for sure. Celonis is building enterprise software. We're trying to... We have a huge market that we can address. And every company out there that we're integrating with has their own data sets. And so the data sets are huge. We need to simplify that view of the information for users in our front ends. And so they can glean that insight that's really specific for them from their huge amount of data, and we need to get it to them without a lot of effort.
Detwiler: And we talk about the consumerization of IT a lot and have been for decades. And part of that is doing exactly what you just described, right? It's building consumer grade applications, but at enterprise scale, right? That's what you're describing.
The expectation these days is someone pulls out their phone and gets their answer right away. So at work, they want it to be the same thing.
Detwiler: Because everyone expects their enterprise software to work like the consumer products they use, to be just as easy. But I think as you were saying, it has to be a lot more powerful on the back end.
Rosett: Yeah, for sure. I mean, the expectation these days is someone pulls out their phone and gets their answer right away. So at work, they want it to be the same thing.
They come to Celonis and the UI, and they log in, and they know exactly what to do and how to get the information they're looking for.
Detwiler: And that's a delicate balance, right? Ease of use and massive power is hard to do. So let's talk a little bit about the team. How is the team working together to solve tough technical challenges, whether it's that one or the others that you face?
Rosett: I mean, team. That is how it works, right? We need to collaborate. We need to make sure we're working with our partner teams in Europe, both engineering and the product teams. We jump on meetings in the morning and meet with Europe because that's when we can. The group in Los Angeles, we're all in the office. So it's really great and easy to be able to turn around and knock on someone's chair and just ask for help or bounce an idea off them. And so that just happens a lot and very organic.
Detwiler: And what about yourself? Talk to me a little bit about your previous career experiences. How did they prepare you to solve tough technical challenges?
Rosett: Yeah. So I mean, I've always worked at pretty large companies. IBM, Yahoo, Google. And at all these, the datasets are huge, right? And the user base that you're trying to reach is millions. And so you need to build these things with scale in mind from day one. It's not something that can evolve. And so I think this experience directly correlates to what we're doing here at Celonis.
Detwiler: And for new engineers too, because we're doing that at Celonis. Would you say that it's a great opportunity for them to get the exposure, like you got, to building systems at scale with us?
Rosett: Absolutely. At a smaller startup, you just don't get that, right? At a company that's established and is working with big data, you get this. And you have the engineering teams that know how to do this, and you can follow their lead and learn from them.
Detwiler: So what one piece of advice would you give to new engineers who are maybe where you were at the start of your career, just coming out of college, for solving tough technical challenges? What can they learn from your experiences to help them do that?
Rosett: Yeah. I mean, you got to work hard. Difficult challenges are difficult for a reason. And so you got to put in the work. But at the same time, you need help. So you got to be ready to ask for it, right? You're not going to come up with every solution for a difficult challenge. Otherwise, it wouldn't be difficult. So that's the first advice to give them. The second piece would be have someone that you feel comfortable going to and bouncing ideas off of. You have a lot to learn. And so you want to just surround yourself with people that are going to help you grow.
Detwiler: So it really is just about that. It really is about that team and about being around other people that you can learn from, that Celonis idea of the best team wins.
At Celonis we’re building a new type of enterprise technology, called execution management. And, we’re recruiting the world’s best engineers to do it. Whether you’re a frontend or backend developer, full stack engineer, data scientist or DevOps specialist – we have technical challenges that need solving.
To learn more about how we’re pioneering advances in AI, machine learning, automation, analytics and data mining, and to see current engineering job openings, visit Celonis Engineering.